As my fellow reporter Noé from LE RÉGIONAL was conducting an interview of Joey about the announcement that he had been selected as a full fledge member of the Canadian Paracycling team and heading for Tokyo in August, I was planning a parallel interview of other members of his team, notably his wife Vanessa and girls Stella and Zayla, and some of his sponsors. It felt like playing GOOD COP, BAD COP: split everyone up so as to see if everyone’s answers matched! But I felt like a ‘good cop’ through it all because this week’s announcement is cause for great celebration: both Joey and Vanessa are family and I am personally aware of all the tragedies, joys, struggles, celebrations, good fortunes and bad ones that they lived through in their still young lifetime and this moment is close to the top, the climax of years of efforts, of training and of hopes for Joey himself, for his family, his friends, his sponsors and the local community.
Joey and Vanessa have been together 18 years and form a solid and inseparable duo, a prolific and organised team: sharing responsibilities for two young active daughters while working full-time and Joey training or competing somewhere in the world, Vanessa agrees that it is their biggest challenge: ‘We have become master schedulers and the logistics of keeping track of everyone in our household is almost a full-time job in itself! We are very fortunate to have so many family members close by and we couldn’t do this without their support’. Vanessa, Stella and Zayla are Joey’s biggest cheerleaders and groupies, joining him around the country and around the world for cheers whenever it is possible when he is competing: ‘We see his dedication to training very day and being able to go and watch him ‘live’ in real competition, we can’t miss that! We were very fortunate to accompany him across Canada and the USA, even joining him in the Netherlands to see his first World Cup Race! We three girls would definitely have gone to Tokyo in a heartbeat if foreigners had been allowed to attend the events, but we will have to cheer him on from Canada watching TV broadcasts.’
Since Joey is still one of the younger athletes in his category, he may be just ‘ripe’, ‘dans la fleur de l’âge’ as the French say, for the 2024 Paris Paralympics; he alone knows if that is in the plan, if he is willing push himself mentally and physically for another three years or to go on with his after-career. ‘If so he chooses, he could have a few more years of racing ahead of him, maybe with sights on Paris 2024…’ says Vanessa, but without hinting on his or their final decision. Being a professional athlete has some appealing perks, but many hidden challenges also: for the athlete himself, always questioning his performances, always striving to exceed his own expectations and personal best, for a young couple, for a young family, for his and their future.
An old wise African saying states that ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child…’ Allow me to rephrase it for our purpose: ‘It took a whole community to make a champion…’ In a previous interview, Joey expressed his gratefulness to everyone involved in RACING TEAM JOEY DESJARDINS: family, friends, sponsors, medias, coaches, cycling partners, government agencies. It was truly a team effort and Joey’s nomination to team Canada and recognition as a world elite athlete is the gratifying end result. GO JOEY GO!
Friends, neighbours, sponsors have been sending their best wishes to Joey ever since the announcement: Let’s flood his message box with good vibes! facebook.com/search/top?q=joey%20desjardins
‘Félicitations Joey! On roule avec toi! Profite bien de ton rendez-vous olympique!’ (Jean-René et François Danis, ALX Designs et HHT Paysagement/Landscaping)
Photo: Joey’s cheerleaders (without pompoms!): Vanessa, Stella and Zayla Desjardin.